The HQ takes a look at the Toronto Raptors' fifth loss in a row...
You knew better.
After the way this season's gone, you just did.
That's why when the Toronto Raptors jumped to a big lead over the Milwaukee Bucks early in the first quarter of last night's match, you didn't get your hopes up.
And when the Dinos hit 10 of their first 11 shots, perhaps you applauded silently from your couch...but you knew there was a lonnnnng ways to go.
After all, how do you explain the fact that the Raps shot essentially 60% at the half, and yet were down by three?
(You explain it with horrific defense but we'll get to that in a second.)
A big run in the third quarter which featured some efficient scoring from Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan (they combined for 20 of the Raps 24 points in that Q)? Did that get you going?
Of course not.
Because again, down the stretch, the Raptors failed to do the "little things" necessary to get a W, and the result was loss number five out of the last five games for TO, this time a 104 to 98 decision in favour of Milwaukee.
In the end, you just got the feeling that Toronto wasn't going to be able to close out a W, and really, considering losses by Washington, New Jersey, Minnesota and Sacramento, that's fine. The Raps hold onto the league's fourth-worst record with pride, and now face two very tough opponents back-to-back in Chicago and Orlando this weekend, both of whom hopefully will extend Toronto's recent slide.
Anything positive to take from this game?
Besides the play of DeMar DeRozan (20 points on 8 of 15 shooting, 3 assists, 3 steals), not really.
James Johnson had a career-high 10 rebounds, and was decent in stretches, and Andrea's team-high 22 points came on some fairly efficient shooting, but when you add everything up, it's still the 2010-11 season motto which we've dubbed "wash, rinse, repeat."
Toronto threw out an ineffective zone in the fourth quarter, played its most inefficient players down the stretch, had no go-to option when the team needed a bucket late (Bargs was 1 for 3 with 0 rebounds down the stretch), and made a scrub look like an All-Star.
This time Drew Gooden was awarded the "Stub of the Night" honours as he posted 22 points and 11 rebounds in oh, just about 25 minutes of action.
It makes you want to scream as a fan, but again, with the goal here to get a top 3 lottery pick, you just sorta bottle it up, do a Kanye shrug, and walk away.
It's been the same thing all season, so why stop now?
In fact as I was watching this one come to its inevitably painful conclusion, I realized that really, this year's version of the Raps had perfected losing in a way that I'd never experienced in my nearly 15 years of following this club. You could actually make a recipe out of it and it would probably read like this:
-Start with inefficient scoring from Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan
-Add in some lax D from the entire club
-Sprinkle in a lack of outside shooting ability
-Pour in some head-scratching personnel decisions
-Mix it all up with a heavy dose of inexperience all the while straining in a lack of star power and...
...there you go!
54 losses in 74 games!
With Jose Calderon leaving the game early thanks to a nagging hamstring issue, and Jay Triano establishing a "crunch-time" rotation of Bayless, Barbosa, DeRozan, Bargnani and Amir Johnson, the "recipe for a loss" was executed perfectly, and Toronto let another winnable game slip-slide away.
Drew Gooden and Andrew Bogut were simply relentless on the glass but instead of getting an Evans-Davis (although admittedly Bogut owned Davis all night) or Evans-Johnson combo, Bargs played until Drew Gooden's dagger jump-shot pushed the lead to six with 43 seconds left, and any further adjustments were essentially "too little too late."
Again, I'm all for the losses from here on out, but what's scary is that Triano was without a doubt trying to win this game.
This type of "winning strategy" could end up getting TO a top three pick, something worthy of a smile when the season's finally through.
But it also admittedly leaves me with some big concerns for next season because 74 games in, it's still not clear that Triano has gotten this group any further along at either end of the court.
The perfecting the losing recipe is fine for Tank-a-Palooza.
For the 2011-12 season (assuming there is one.)
Some major changes have to be made.